York Mix - Bar talk: Sotano, a secret underworld of cracking craft beer by Nick Love
If I owned a bar, I’d want to employ assiduous individuals with a genuine empathy for what they do, who took a delight in delivering something special and had obviously spent time behind the scenes honing their craft. You get a sense of this at Sotano – there’s a tangible relaxed sincerity blended with something of the infectious zeal of the alchemist.
When you look at a life in the day of Sotano you get more of a sense of theirrazón de ser. You’ll get there early evening and see groups, post-work, huddled around plates of Iberico ham, patatas bravas and selected cheeses from the tapas menu, washed down with a bottle from the exclusively Spanish wine menu.
The chameleonesque character of the bar is exemplified when you pop back later on, when there’s a bustling upbeat but relaxed vibe, designed, I understand, for like-minded people who want an upmarket alternative to 120bpm thudding off night club walls dripping with adrenalin.
It’s hard to characterise a bar that wants to put an emphasis on providing quality for discerning people without hinting at exclusivity. “Upmarket” is an invidious term as it has connotations of high price and exclusivity for its own sake rather than a simple dedication to quality. Artisan alcohol in a pleasant environment shouldn’t cost the earth.
Sotano seem to have got this formula just about right though, if their footfall is anything to go by, and have carved out a niche for themselves in a notoriously fickle and competitive market where “word of mouth” is vital to success and you have to be just that bit different and a significant notch above mundanity to make it work.